PORTLAND—The Greely Rangers set out this winter to become the best girls’ basketball team in Class B.
They wound up being the best girls’ team in the state.
Regardless of class.
And delivered an absolutely sensational performance on the biggest stage of all as a punctuation mark.
Friday evening in the Class B state final at the Cross Insurance Arena, against the pedigreed Presque Isle Wildcats, who have seen their share of state games in recent years, including a triumphant one in Portland two years ago, Greely proved once and for all that no team is its equal when it’s clicking on all cylinders.
It did take the Rangers a few minutes to warm up, as the Wildcats took a 5-0 lead, but a 3-pointer from sophomore Moira Train got Greely rolling.
Sophomore sub extraordinaire Isabel Porter then put her team up with a 3-ball and the Rangers were ahead to stay, 6-5, after one quarter.
Greely’s second quarter was record-setting and might have been the finest eight-minute stretch ever seen in the biggest game of the year.
A Porter 3 got it started and before Presque Isle knew what hit it, the Rangers had buried four more 3s, capped by a Train shot with 13 seconds to go, and had for all intents and purposes wrapped up the title by leading by the overwhelming margin of 33-10.
Greely posted 27 second quarter points, made seven 3-pointers in the first half alone, breaking the existing full-game record by two, and had only committed two turnovers.
Even the Rangers couldn’t be expected to continue that type of dominance for another 16 minutes and they didn’t have to, but Greely maintained a 43-22 lead after three periods and despite the Wildcats fighting hard to the end, the Rangers had no trouble putting the finishing touches on a dazzling 56-39 triumph, which put them at the Class B mountaintop.
Train led the way with 14 points, senior standout Ashley Storey bowed out with a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds and Porter added 12 points off the bench as Greely finished 20-2 and ended Presque Isle’s season at 19-3 as it won its fourth Gold Ball and first since 2004.
“I don’t want to be boring to watch,” said Rangers coach Joel Rogers. “I want the kids to play the game the way it should be played. It’s all about confidence. They were so good in practice yesterday shooting 3s against each other and I didn’t think (Presque Isle) could shut down five of us. The girls knew they could win a championship.”
Since winning the Class B title in 2004, Greely has won at least 13 games per season and reached at least the semifinal round in nine of 10 years, but couldn’t quite get over the hump, as Lake Region and York stood in the way.
This winter, the Rangers weren’t about to settle for anything short of a trip to the state final and while they lost twice, they only got better as the season progressed.
Greely stumbled out of the gate, losing on Opening Night to visiting Gray-New Gloucester (59-47), but the Rangers righted their ship with victories over host Freeport (62-26), visiting Kennebunk (64-33), host Yarmouth (50-29), visiting Falmouth (54-28), host Poland (47-30), visiting Fryeburg Academy (39-31) and host Kennebunk (59-28).
After its seven-game win streak ended with a 48-43 loss at York, Greely didn’t fall again, as it handled host Falmouth (37-13), visiting Freeport (66-33), visiting Yarmouth (54-22), visiting Lake Region (52-30), host Fryeburg Academy (53-37), host Cape Elizabeth (63-30), host Wells (51-19), visiting Cape Elizabeth (35-25) and visiting York (65-30) to go 16-2.
Despite their excellence, the Rangers only earned the No. 3 seed in Western B and had to navigate a regional tournament road fraught with talented teams who doubled as rivals.
In the quarterfinals, Greely faced No. 6 Lake Region, a squad which had beaten it in three straight postseasons, but this time, the Rangers took care of business, going on to a decisive 45-31 victory.
Greely then got a chance to avenge its Opening Night loss when it took on second-ranked Gray-New Gloucester in the semifinals. The game was never competitive and the Rangers romped, 57-34.
In the regional final, Greely had to get past the regional tournament’s feel-good story, No. 9 seed Cape Elizabeth, and it gradually pulled away to prevail, 53-28.
As for Presque Isle, it won its first seven games, then lost at home to Mt. Desert Island, 70-64. After six more wins, the Wildcats lost at MDI, 84-60. Presque Isle won its final three games, but wound up second behind MDI in Eastern B.
A 50-33 quarterfinal round win over No. 10 Winslow was followed by even better news, as No. 1 MDI was upset by No. 9 Gardiner. In the semifinals, the Wildcats downed 11th-ranked Hermon, 74-53. Presque Isle then ousted Gardiner in the regional final, 47-24, to advance to the state final.
Both teams entered the game having multiple state titles to their credit.
Presque Isle reached three Class A state games (see sidebar), becoming Westbrook’s fourth straight victim back in 1981, then denying Portland in 1990 and 1997. After moving up to Class B, the Wildcats have done even better, winning titles in 2006, 2012 and 2013, vanquishing Lake Region each time.
As for Greely, it went back-to-back to win Class B in 1983 and 1984, downing Houlton both times. The Rangers won consecutive regional titles in 1997 and 1998, but lost to MDI, then Orono in the state final. In 2003, Greely got back to the state game, but was no match for a powerhouse MDI squad. The following year, the Rangers returned and downed Camden Hills to win the championship.
Greely had beaten Presque Isle back in the preseason, but the teams had no countable history.
Friday, the Rangers capped one of the most decisive runs in recent tournament history.
First, the Wildcats got off to a fast start, delivering the first true dose of adversity that Greely had faced all postseason.
After a miss by Rangers senior Haley Felkel to start the game, Presque Isle broke the ice 53 seconds in when senior Krystal Kingsbury set up junior Regan Nelson for a layup. After another Greely miss, sophomore Emily Lagerstrom hit a 3 and the Wildcats led, 5-0.
After a Rangers’ turnover, Rogers called timeout and everything changed.
Felkel swung the ball to Train and Train knocked down a 3 to get Greely on the board with 5:37 to go in the first.
“I think we realized we needed to play to our ability and we had to play harder,” Train said. “(Making that first 3) felt really good. That gave us some confidence.”
“Coach just said to relax and play our game and we did that,” Felkel said. “It was a good timeout.”
“I didn’t like the way we were running the offense,” Rogers added. “We weren’t aggressive enough. We needed to just go. I told them to be aggressive and the shots would be there.”
Neither team then scored for over three minutes before Porter came off the bench, took a pass from junior Maddie Cyr and hit a 3 of her own for a lead Greely wouldn’t relinquish.
“We started out slow, then we took shots that were open and they went in and we got confidence,” said Porter, who has blossomed into a star over the past few weeks. “Coach just wanted us to play defense and shut them down and make passes and take shots. Our defense sparked our offense.”
“Isabel got us going,” Storey said. “She comes off the bench and she’s ready to shoot every time. I don’t know how she does it, but it gets us fired up.”
Neither team found the basket again in the period and after eight minutes, the Rangers led, 6-5, as they held the Wildcats scoreless for the final 6:09 of the frame and didn’t allow a single point to senior standout and Miss Maine Basketball finalist Hannah Graham.
Then came the second quarter, where Greely put on such a performance it trumped all the awesomeness it produced in the regional tournament, which wasn’t an easy feat.
Forty-one seconds in, Porter made her second 3. The Rangers then got their passing game going, as Cyr fed Storey for her first points, a layup.
With 5:54 to play in the half, Wildcats junior Taylor Williams set up Nelson for a layup to end an 8:15 drought and Greely’s 11-0 run, but there was plenty more Rangers’ offense to come.
Train answered with a 3 and when sophomore Molly Chapin set up Felkel for a layup and a 16-7 lead with 4:54 to go, Presque Isle coach Jeff Hudson called timeout.
And it didn’t do a bit of good.
Out of the timeout, in transition, Porter fed Chapin on the left wing and Chapin’s 3 found nothing but net. Storey added two free throws and Felkel made a 3 to push the lead to 24-7.
Graham finally got on the board with 3:11 left before halftime with a 3, but that only momentarily stepped the Rangers’ onslaught.
Storey countered with two free throws, Storey put back her own miss, Storey set up Train for a fasbreak layup and after another futile Presque Isle timeout, junior Sarah Felkel saved the ball from going out of bounds, got it to Storey and Storey fed Train for a 3 to produce a commanding 33-10 advantage at the break.
“We got down 5-0 and all of a sudden one of them hit, then another hit,” Rogers said. “We had really good ball movement. To hold (Presque Isle) to 10 points in the first half was unbelievable.”
Greely hit 7 of 11 3-point shots in the first half (breaking the existing Class B state game record of five), got 11 points from Train, eight points, seven rebounds, three assists, a blocked shot and a steal from Storey and completely held Graham in check.
The Wildcats, to their credit, hung tough in the third period, but they couldn’t dent the Rangers’ lead in a way that suggested a comeback might be imminent.
After Haley Felkel allowed Greely to begin the second half the way it ended the first with a 3-ball, Williams countered with a 3 for Presque Isle. Storey scored on a runner, but Kingsbury made two foul shots. After Train made one for the Rangers, Kingsbury hit a layup. Porter was fouled while shooting a 3 and hit two of her ensuing free throws for a 41-17 advantage, but Kingsbury made a layup while picking up Storey’s third foul and added the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play. Porter got two points back with a runner, but a layup by Kingsbury pulled the Wildcats within 43-22 heading for the fourth quarter.
There, Presque Isle tried to make a run, but Greely put a vice grip on its title.
Kingsbury started the final stanza with a bank shot, then scored on a putback (inducing Storey’s fourth foul in the process), but Storey took a pass from Sarah Felkel and made a layup to push the lead to 45-26.
After Lagerstrom made a 3 for the Wildcats, Chapin answered with one for a 48-29 lead with 6 minutes to go.
A layup from Kingsbury and a runner from freshman Emily Wheaton pulled Presque Isle with 15, but Sarah Felkel made a free throw and Porter hit two.
With 2:24 to play, Lagerstrom made a 3 from the corner to cut the deficit to 51-36, but Train made a layup. A three-point play from Kingsbury gave Presque Isle its final points. A free throw from Storey was followed by all the starters leaving the floor and in the final minute, a bank shot from junior Alexis Faietta accounted for the 56-39 final score.
At 8:29 p.m., after 11 years of waiting, Greely was the Class B state champion.
“It feels awesome,” Storey said. “I don’t know any other word for it. We’re just so excited. We have so many weapons. Inside, outside, ball-handling or defense. We just came out played every game. This is the icing on the cake and it’s the best part of the cake.”
“It feels amazing,” Haley Felkel said. “This year’s been great. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it with any other group of girls. I don’t know if it’s really hit us yet. The big difference this year was confidence. Everyone stepped up and did their part and it really showed.”
“I think the girls just took pride and bought in,” Rogers added. “They just wanted to win. (Assistant coach) Diana (Manduca) and I came up with the right schemes, but they’re just good athletes who work hard in practice. The effort on defense was amazing from my perspective.”
Train had a team-high 14 points, including three of Greely’s record nine 3-pointers. She also had three rebounds and a steal.
Storey bowed out with a stat-sheet-stuffing performance befitting her greatness. The Miss Maine Basketball finalist and Western B regional tournament MVP had 13 points, 13 rebounds, three of the Rangers’ six steals, both of their blocks and demonstrating her unselfishness, also had four key assists.
“Ashley can do anything she wants,” Porter said.
“We’ll never replace Ashley,” Rogers said. “She’s a once-in-an-every-20-years-type player. I’ll never coach another player like that in my lifetime. She dominated the defensive boards. (The Wildcats) were one-and-done the whole first half.”
Porter finished with 12 points, including two 3s, and had two rebounds.
“Isabel was Isabel again off the bench,” said Rogers.
Haley Felkel bowed out with eight points, four assists and two steals.
Chapin had two huge 3-pointers, good for six points, and also had two assists and two boards.
Faietta had two points and Sarah Felkel added one.
The Rangers enjoyed a 27-24 rebounding advantage, only committed nine turnovers (just four through three quarters) and made 11 of 16 free throws.
“It wasn’t better coaching this year, it was better players,” Rogers said. “As the season progressed, we got better. We were very good defensively last year, but we shot the ball better. I think the girls rallied around Ashley. She never talks about her successes, but they knew she wanted this bad. It’s only the fourth state championship for Greely. They leave a legacy. It’s a real privilege to coach these players. It’s humbling to get a job at 54 and three years later, win a championship. The community liked this team and liked watching them play. That meant a lot.”
Presque Isle was paced by a game-high 18 points from Kingsbury, all of which came after halftime. She also had a team-high nine rebounds. Lagerstrom made three 3s, good for nine points. Nelson finished with four points, Graham and Williams each had three and Wheaton wound up with two. The Wildcats committed 13 turnovers and made 4 of 5 foul shots.
Greely hasn’t repeated as state champions for three decades and its quest to do so will be handcuffed by the graduation of Haley Felkel and Storey.
“Ashley was the quiet assassin and Haley was so vocal,” Rogers said. “They balance each other so much.”
While their departure will certainly be felt, this program is in prime position to cut down the nets again a year from now.
“It’s going to be really different,” Train said. “I think we’ll be more of a shooting team next year. We can’t rely on Ashley in the post.”
“Having Ashley and Haley was great and it won’t be the same without them next year,” Porter said. “They did so much for our team, but we’re still going to be very strong next year. I think we can go far again.”
“I get five of these seven kids back,” Rogers added. “We’ll take a little break, but I have a really good program coming back and some studs coming in from the middle school.”
They’ll have quite an act to follow.
Greely senior Ashley Storey wins the opening tip.
Greely sophomore Molly Chapin buries a 3 from the wing.
Greely senior captain Haley Felkel runs down a loose ball.
Greely sophomore reserve Isabel Porter drives to the basket. Porter helped spark the first half surge.
Greely senior Ashley Storey comes down with one of her game-high 13 rebounds. The University of New Hampshire-bound Storey also had 13 points in her swan song.
Greely sophomore Moira Train hit three clutch 3-pointers en route to a team-high 14 points.
Greely coach Joel Rogers had a lot to smile about Friday.
Greely senior Ashley Storey waves the net joyously following the win.
Greely senior captains Ashley Storey (left) and Haley Felkel show off the Gold Ball in the postgame ceremony.
The 2014-15 Class B state champion poses with its trophy following the win.
Greely’s girls’ basketball team erupts with joy at the final horn of Friday night’s 56-39 win over Presque Isle in the Class B state final. The Rangers’ emphatic performance produced the program’s fourth Gold Ball and first in 11 years.
Joe Carpine/365digitalphotography photos.
More photos below.
Greely 56 Presque Isle 39
PI- 5 5 12 17- 39
G- 6 27 10 13- 56
PI- Kingsbury 7-4-18, Lagerstrom 3-0-9,Nelson 2-0-4, Graham 1-0-3, Williams 1-0-3, Wheaton 1-0-2
G- Train 5-1-14, Storey 4-5-13, Porter 3-4-12, H. Felkel 3-0-8, Chapin 2-0-6, Faietta 1-0-2, S. Felkel 0-1-1
PI (5) Lagerstrom 3, Graham, Williams 1
G (9) Train 3, Chapin, H. Felkel, Porter 2
PI (24) Kingsbury 9, Graham 6, Lagerstrom, Nelson 3, Wheaton 2, Williams 1
G (27) Storey 13, Porter, Train 3, Chapin, S. Felkel 2, Cyr, Faietta, Leggat-Barr, Smith 1
PI (6) Wheaton 2, Graham, Kingsbury, Lagerstrom, Williams 1
G (6) Storey 3, H. Felkel 2, Train 1
PI (2) Kingsbury, Nelson 1
G (2) Storey 2
Previous Greely state finals
2004 Class B
Greely 54 Camden Hills 36
2003 Class B
Mt. Desert Island 58 Greely 33
1998 Class B
Orono 51 Greely 42
1997 Class B
Mt. Desert Island 57 Greely 38
1984 Class B
Greely 41 Houlton 39
1983 Class B
Greely 67 Houlton 49
Previous Presque Isle state finals
2013 Class B
Presque Isle 51 Lake Region 44
2012 Class B
Presque Isle 49 Lake Region 47
2006 Class B
Presque Isle 48 Lake Region 36
1997 Class A
Presque Isle 77 Portland 49
1990 Class A
Presque Isle 47 Portland 44
1981 Class A
Westbrook 61 Presque Isle 59
Previous Greely stories
Greely 54 Falmouth 28
Greely 39 Fryeburg Academy 31
Greely 52 Lake Region 30
Greely 65 York 30
Greely 45 Lake Region 31
Greely 57 Gray-New Gloucester 34
Greely 53 Cape Elizabeth 28